One of the most competitive basketball academies in the country, the Connecticut Basketball Academy, repeatedly churns out top players. They make it look easy, but the truth is that so does any institution with the resources to screen for only the most talented youth and the staff and facilities to help these youth athletes achieve their full potential. So what is an average youth sports coach to do when they don’t have access to all of the latest and greatest and most expensive everything that professional academies do? The truth is that many of the greatest players of all time didn’t grow up in a basketball academy - which should give you the confidence to know that you too can help every one of your players to look like the star they are when their feet hit that court.

Teach Skills

Skill is the number one thing that basketball players need. Skill can be learned and practiced and honed in a way that raw talent cannot. It is true that talent matters. But with hard work and practice anyone can improve their skills. A team full of skilled kids is going to make everyone look great.

The definition of a skill is quite simple and elegant:


  1. the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well:Carpentry was one of his many skills.
  2. competent excellence in performance; expertness; dexterity:The dancers performed with skill.
  3. a craft, trade, or job requiring manual dexterity or special training in which a person has competence and experience:the skill of cabinetmaking.

In the case of basketball, basic skills that are needed to play the game at any level include:

  • Shooting. This means that a player can make a jump or set shot, which means standing where they are and successfully sinking the ball from that position into the basket. Layups are another type of shot that is made by great players successfully, as are dunks. Since the game is won by the team that scores the most points, and the only way to score points in basketball is to sink a shot, this is a critical skill to have.
  • Dribbling. This entails moving on the court in any direction for any distance. The ball must be constantly dribbled except when standing still, passing or shooting, and players must be able move the ball when there are opposing team members defending and/or guarding. Dribbling is physically complex because it requires keeping your eyes up and on the whole game while you maintain control of the ball.
  • Passing. This means moving the ball through the air to another member of your team accurately and strategically. This requires timing, communication and coordination. The truth is that most of the times any player’s hands are on the ball they will be aiming to pass it rather than shoot it, so this is a really important skill.
  • Rebounding. When a shot is missed it is important that your team gain control of the ball before the other team does. This means being in position to get the ball and having the drive to go after the ball even when other people are moving for it as well.
  • Defense. This is a critical skill for every player to learn because every player has to play both offense and defense. Defense means staying on the person that you are assigned to and trying to block them from passing or shooting.

The best way to teach and develop these skills in your players is to incorporate them into drills and practice. Hustle Fitness has all of the resources you need for this on our website and in our app.

Use Positive Reinforcement and Feedback

USA Basketball is the largest basketball organization in the US outside of the NBA. It is self-described as:

A nonprofit organization and the national governing body for men's and women's basketball in the United States. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the United States by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA teams that compete in FIBA sponsored international basketball competitions, as well as for some national competitions, and for the development of youth basketball initiatives that address player development, coach education and licensing, and safety.

As a leader of the sport it fully promotes using positivity in communication as an inspiration and training method. They use words like, “positive attitude” and “communication,” “we over me” and “good times.” Time Magazine, in their article, The Key to Making Your Kid a Star Athlete, reiterates this sentiment, “clap, don’t correct.”

This is not to say that constructive criticism is not going to help people learn. Certainly part of being a coach is to help the players understand how they can improve, but this is about tone of voice and encouragement and focusing more on what they are doing right than telling them what they are doing wrong. This will inspire your players to be their best because they will feel good about themselves all the time.

Keep the Strategy Simple

The more complex the plays you are asking the team to make, the more room there is for error. A simple strategy can be just as effective as a very advanced one if your players practice it and execute it in perfect synchrony. When this happens it will make the team, and everyone on it look great - because the team moves as one entity and works together to execute wins.

Youth have less developed brains than adults and so it stands to reason that these simpler strategies will help them do better. In this way you are not only helping them achieve results, but also to look like stars.

Keep following Hustle Fitness for more tips and tricks on coaching youth basketball.